When I first started having symptoms, I went to the doctor. I told him, “I’m losing weight, I can’t keep anything in me.”
So they did these lab tests and they called a week later and said, “Everything’s fine.”
And I said, “But everything’s not fine. I’m still losing weight. My body’s not working right.” They told me to go on a BRAT diet and sent me a bill for $350.
I felt like they charged me for no answers. And at that point, I became a little bitter. I decided that I would try to figure it out on my own. I would Google-search it to death until I figured out what was wrong with me.
Then, when I was going through a month-long flare and I was down another 15 pounds, a good friend of mine sat me down and said “Kyle, you really need to take care of this.” And then she handed me a check for $100.
That’s when I realized this wasn’t just about me anymore. I needed to swallow my pride and go and try to get some answers.
It’s been draining emotionally and mentally.
But I’m so appreciative of the friends who have looked at me and said, “You need to get some help.”
I came to realize how important having support around you was. I know I couldn’t have walked through what I've walked through without the support of my friends and my family, especially my wife, Tiffany.
They encouraged me and pushed me along, and my wife at times carried me through the process.
The best thing for me was meeting and talking with people who have Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. That helps you understand the symptoms and the struggles of living with this condition.
That was a huge help for me. I was able to have those awkward conversations about bowel movements.
I’ve also had to learn how much of a toll this condition can take.
I spent 29 days in a hospital room and for about 15 of those days, I wasn’t able to get out of bed. So my body lost a lot of muscle mass and strength. And when I got out of the hospital, everyone else kept moving forward and they kind of thought I would just come along.
I had a nurse working with me when I first got out of the hospital and she sat me down on the couch and she said “Kyle, I need you to stand up and walk 10 feet." I kind of laughed and said “Are you going to time me for how long it takes to go 10 feet?” But it took me 15 seconds to stand up and walk just 10 feet.
I just broke down. I thought, “What is wrong with me? Am I going to be like this forever?” And she told me, “You need to let your body recover. Your mind may be there, but your body’s not.”
Watching the world go by from your couch is hard. I was 28. I played basketball three days a week, I coached middle school track and basketball. To have your world stop like that, that’s hard.
I had to sit for about a month. I’m seeing people doing all these things, but I’m looking at my body and saying, “No way.” No way I can even go around the block, let alone go and support the local high school football team.
I learned how valuable your health is. I learned how blessed we are to have the ability to get up and walk 10 feet without exhausting ourselves or just being able to go outside and take a walk.
I’m very fortunate to be at a point where I'm now able to get up every morning and bounce around and act like the seventh graders I’m teaching. That is pretty exciting.
I remember specific times, especially when I was hospitalized and I was getting blood transfusions and I’d look to God and ask, “Why, God? Why is this happening to me?”
My wife and I were working in a youth ministry. We were in church every Sunday. And you kind of play that game and go, “I’ve done nothing to deserve this.”
I remember one night when I was asking those questions and God flipped my thinking a bit. He said, “I’m not doing this to you. This is the result of the sin that’s entered into this world."
In the end, I really was surprised by how strong I was in my faith. I didn’t have moments when I was ready to say, “I’m done with you, God.” But there were days when I said, “I’m ready for you to come through now. I’m ready for the amazing to happen today.”
My wife probably had it harder than I did on the faith side of things. She had to look at me in the worst possible state you can see your spouse, when they’re unable to do anything but lay there and quiver and call for the nurse when they need an extra med kick. She had moments when she asked God, “Why is this happening?”
But ultimately, it made our faith in God stronger because we were able to have real conversations about what was going on in our hearts. There were real heartfelt prayers we were able to do together. And I think that we grew leaps and bounds as a couple.
What I would pass on to people is that you are not alone. I know that finding people who can relate to what I’m dealing with has been so amazing and helpful to my fight.
Also, remember that you can’t hide from this disease. It’s a part of you, but it's not who you are.
Don’t let yourself be defined by Crohn’s. I want to be known as Kyle Woelber, a Christian, a Husband, a Father, a Teacher, a Generous Man who just happens to have Crohn’s.
I never want Crohn’s to be the start of my descriptors.